[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 294
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Artemis Hawke ♂, Fenris ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂, Isabela ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Canon-typical violence
Notes: The end of more undead and one very much alive.
With the map’s help, they were able to pick their way through the right cave, which was blessedly free of varterrals, and reappeared in the foggy air, the stone gray and damp underfoot.
Anders drew in a deep breath as though enjoying the air. "Ah, doesn’t this bring back fond memories," he said. "If I had known, I would have suggested we bring Merrill, for nostalgia’s sake."
Fenris padded behind Isabela, looking around warily, as though expecting that odd dragon woman to reappear. When a shriek cut through the air, he looked up automatically for dragon wings. Instead, movement came from ground level, in the shape of a limping undead, a skeleton dragging a sword behind it.
In a moment, Isabela’s blades were out, and then she was out of sight.
"More angry undead," Fenris called over his shoulder boredly. He hefted the axe he’d just taken from the Arcane Horror. He’d rather not blunt his sword hacking at bone.
Anders stretched out his hand, and the ground glowed green under the skeleton’s shambling feet before those feet stopped, stuck to the ground.
Cormac clenched his fist and the skeleton began to crumble under the weight of his will. As bone crunched, two more shambling creatures made their way up from the path Isabela had disappeared down. Actually, they shambled rather quickly and nimbly for a pair of corpses. "Three brothers," Cormac muttered. "Artie? If you ever find yourself considering demons as an appropriate answer, think of this moment. I know I’m going to…"
Anders quickly discovered the other two couldn’t be stunned or stopped. And then he realised at least one of them had magic, as he found himself dragged toward the point of the rather large sword the thing held. "Revenant!" he shouted, as Cormac’s barrier flew up around him, and he stopped moving, stumbling against the wall of it.
Fenris had swapped the axe for his own sword and plunged it straight through the revenant, as it dragged him in. Artemis — where was — Oh. Right where he’d been standing. Of course. Sometimes he forgot his mage didn’t move if he didn’t mean to move.
Whooping, Isabela slammed down from above, daggers drawn, driving the revenant to the ground with her knees on its shoulders. As the undead collapsed, the sword wrenched out of Fenris’s hands, dragged down. "Great minds!" Isabela laughed, driving her daggers into the thing’s neck, trying to pry its head off. "Sorry about that."
"Izzy!" Cormac shouted, landing a solid lightning strike against the other revenant, as Isabela caught its attention. A second later, a stone fist collided with its face, knocking its head back.
"Finish that one," Fenris growled to Izzy, picking up the axe again and hoping that other damned creature hadn’t bent his sword.
"No problem," Isabela huffed, still hacking at the thing’s neck.
Fenris sprang at the standing revenant, swinging the axe in a wide arc and cursing when it met the creature’s shield instead. Another heavy swing knocked the shield to the side, and a third broke the arm holding it with a sickening crack of bone. A fourth swing caught in the meat — or what was left of the meat — of the revenant’s shoulder, and as Fenris fought to tug his axe free, the revenant made a swing of its own…
A swing interrupted by the head of its revenant-brother colliding with its face. The axe tore free, and the next swing sheared off the creature’s head. It dropped to the ground and rolled next to its brother’s. Fenris squinted at both heads but couldn’t tell which went to which undead body.
"Thank you," Fenris told Izzy.
"What can I say? I used my head. Or his, I suppose."
"Three of them," Anders said, sadly, as the barrier dropped. He stepped closer and crouched to get a better look at the sword. "Someone knows who these three were. This is a trophy sword from a tournament. I can’t tell which one — Maker knows it’s not like I ever got invited to these things, when I was an age to appreciate them — but, it’s got names of probably the previous winners carved into it."
"Etched," Fenris corrected. "Etched into the metal. Carved into wood."
"You’re probably right, but why do you know that? It’s not even your native language." Anders squinted up as Fenris brushed corpse dust off himself. "Nevermind. I don’t want to know. What I do want to know is if that was all one demon, which I’m really kind of afraid it might have been."
"I’m not sure why it would be more dangerous if it were one demon instead of several. Isn’t more demons worse?" Cormac asked, as he set to work helping Fenris destroy the bodies.
"If that’s all one demon, we have a single, very large problem," Anders pointed out. "And it looks like someone else was strong enough to contain it for a little while, but not to destroy it. I really don’t know if this is something we should be messing with."
"You and I, Anders, we took on one of the biggest, baddest demons ever to cross the Veil. Centuries of legends about this demon, and we wiped the floor with him. Actually, you and Justice wiped the floor with him, while the other four of us hid in a bubble and threw things at other things, so you could focus on the demon. Either way? We kicked its ass. Whatever this is, unless it’s one of the other three, it can’t possibly be that bad. Also, we should get Merrill and Bethy, if we’re going after the nastiest things ever to cross the Veil, again. Just on principle. Can never have too many people." Cormac leaned on his glaive and looked a lot more enthusiastic than he felt.
"We should write down those names and take them to the Hanged Man. I bet somebody knows what tournament this thing’s from," Isabela decided.
"There’s a tournament in Tantervale, you know. Not often, but it’s the only one I know. I wish I’d had a chance to stay longer, maybe to enter," Fenris sighed and stretched. "But, no, instead I killed a man and made for Kirkwall, which is apparently the mage capital of the South. An excellent and well-considered decision, on my part."
Artemis bumped him with his shoulder. "I’d say it worked out for you," he teased. "Found a mage of your very own in the mage capital, didn’t you?" He slipped an arm around Fenris’s waist.
"Yes," Fenris drawled, the smirk on his lips ruining the effect of his scowl. "And a gaggle of other mages, besides."
While they talked, Izzy poked around the newly dead corpses — or rather un-undead corpses — for any loot. She used the trophy sword like a walking stick. Once she was finished, Fenris kicked over the revenant lying on top of and impaled by his sword and tried to pry it free, with a great deal of cursing.
"So what now?" asked Artie. "Do we try to track down that first scroll?"
"We could," Cormac said, with a shrug. "Or we could just wait for it to come to us. It’s Kirkwall. We’re some of the best known faces in town. If it shows up, it’ll end up becoming our problem. I mean, assuming it’s up here on the mountain, we could spend weeks looking for it and never spot it. It’s paper." He gestured to the leafy drifts and composting leaf-fall along the edges of the trail. The whole floor of the wood was about the colour of the pages they had, even this time of the year.
"But, what if it’s serious," Anders countered. "What if we broke the binding or something?"
"What if we did? It’s Kirkwall. It’s still our problem. We’ll stop and talk to Theron on the way out. Get him to let us know if any of the hunters find anything." Cormac shrugged again and stretched his arm, trying to shake the feeling back into a few of his fingers. Casting while he was nervous always put a strain on his hands. "I’m a little curious that two of these things came up so easily, but one came into the hands of an assassin who was being hunted and the other to a hunter — I think she was a hunter, and if she wasn’t she was a scout — either way, two people who are extremely accustomed to spotting things that are subtly out of place. Which we, to be entirely honest, are not. Well, maybe you, Artie, but I think even you’d have to know what it was supposed to look like, out here, right down to the way leaves land when they fall. We’d do better if this were happening in Kirkwall, itself."
"I’m just glad that, for once, whatever this is actually isn’t happening in Kirkwall," Fenris muttered. "I thought coming to the Marches would make my life less exciting, but no, now I’m stuck on a mountain with a bunch of mages, hunting some horror of the Abyss." He paused. "Still better than Minrathous."
"At least the view is better," Isabela said with an exaggerated wink over her shoulder as she headed back the way they’d come, back towards the caves. "And did you really want ‘less exciting’, anyway?"
Fenris opened his mouth to respond, only to shrug and follow. He supposed the pantsless pirate had a point. Two points.
"And we’re not so much hunting this horror of the Abyss," Anders added, "as having this horror of the Abyss fall into our lap. Not that I’m sure that’s any better."
"It’s not," Fenris assured him.
Anders shrugged and cast a light spell as they ducked back into the caves, highlighting stalactites with a diffuse glow. "No, but that has become a theme with us, hasn’t it?"
"Hanged Man when we get back?" Izzy called back to them, her voice echoing off stone. "All this looting and killing of undead has made me terribly thirsty."
"Me too," said Anders, squeezing Cormac’s rump through his robes. After a moment of thought, he squeezed Artie’s rump with his other hand. For good measure.
Fenris growled and swatted that hand away. "You have your own Hawke!"
"I’ve got gold, and I’ve got silver, I’ve got copper, and I’ve got brass, I’ve got all the world can give me, all I want is a nice Hawke ass!" Anders sang, and Isabela howled with laughter, the sound echoing through the cavern.
"The nicest of the Hawke asses is mine, of course," Fenris replied, smugly, taking a moment to appreciate Artie’s backside. "But, mage, that is your Hawke, and this is mine."
Anders cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his neck, as he looked off down a side passage. It was Cormac who actually managed the objection. "Oh, hey now, I don’t know about that. I like to think I’m my own Hawke. And really, with all the claims on my ass, there’d be a fight for sure. So, let’s not do that, shall we? I like all the users and misusers of my ass to be merry and in good heath."
"In good h—" Anders started, cutting off as the glint of armour shone from the lyrium lights in the room at the bottom of the stairs.
"Mage, you say?" the templar asked, blocking the stairs and dropping a smite across all of them. "Well, that certainly does look like an outfit right out of the Gallows. Who would have thought you’d be foolish enough to keep using this place. Me. I thought."
Anders swallowed his panic as the magic left him, and the cold sensation of Justice’s power lanced through him in its place. He wasn’t defenceless. He wouldn’t have been, even if he’d been without magic. Not any more. But, the first flash was always terrifying.
Fenris stepped in front of the mages he’d only just been complaining about, but before he could reach for a blade, there was another one at the templar’s throat. One of Isabela’s blades. The templar stilled, and Fenris could see the whites of his eyes in the gloom.
"Mage?" Izzy said sweetly at his ear. "Goodness, no! He said ‘maid’. Meaning me. Perhaps you should get your hearing checked? I hear there’s a charming healer in Darktown."
The blade flashed, and the templar’s response cut off into a wet gurgle. It was too dark for Fenris to see the blood, but he could smell it.
"Ten copper?" sighed Izzy, as she dropped the body out of the way. "What templar leaves the house with just ten copper?" She shrugged and pocketed the coins anyway.
"Was he alone?" Artie asked, knuckles white around his staff.
Isabela looked around, poked her head into tunnels. "Looks like," she said. "But let me check." She cupped her hands around her mouth. "Mages!" She waited and shrugged when no one appeared. "Looks clear."
"So, we’ll be getting a little exercise, if they’re waiting to ambush us. I, for one, am completely all right with that." Cormac smiled like his father used to smile, when everything had to be fine. "It’s a fine day for a bit of practise. You think Bethy’ll be up for trying to put a hole in my spleen, when we get home?"
"Why, you feel like venting it a little?" Isabela asked, wrapping an arm around Anders, as Cormac stepped forward, glaive in hand.
"Just a little. How did they even get up here?" Cormac’s smile was unfaltering. "There’s something wrong with this picture."
"What’s more wrong is that he just confirmed it. The templars got the underground, and they’re still looking." Anders shook his head, holding on to Isabela as he walked. "I knew. I did. Carver told me as soon as it happened, but… I don’t know. I was hoping he was wrong. That maybe it was a different cave, a smaller group…" He paused and looked up. "And that templar just walked through a Dalish camp to get here. And so did the others, on that raid. There’s no way up here except to go into the camp."
"It is Kirkwall, where the templars are in complete control. This clan is small and getting smaller. I do not think they can afford to make war with the Chantry," Fenris pointed out.
Anders nodded. He understood that, he did, but that didn’t make the reality any easier. "Too bad this isn’t the cave with the varterral," he said. "That would take care of any templars." He smiled grimly, but his chest still felt tight. "Let’s get out of here." Maybe Justice would let him have that drink.